The mid-178-s became a great challenge to American democracy. The disputes around the structure of states became acuter than ever before. Despite the lack of agreement in the government upon a series of questions, the majority of parties realized the necessity for the implementation of a new constitution that would replace the existing Articles of Confederation (Hull, 2000).
The Constitution’s adopting signified crucial changes in the life of the country. Thus, the new Constitution was mainly aimed at establishing a stronger federal government capable of conducting effective policy with foreign governments. In the meantime, foreign politics was not the only difference that distinguished the two documents. As a result, the paper at hand focuses on the most critical features of the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation as well as the factors that played an important role in the ratification of the former.
The Articles of Confederation VS the Constitution of 1787
As it was already mentioned above, one of the factors that determined the need for the implementation of a new constitution was the government’s weakness. Hence, the US federal government faced numerous difficulties in managing foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation, as it was deprived of the legislative right to adopt laws without receiving the states’ approval. Thus, for example, shortly after the war, the US market became overflown by British traders and their goods, which hurt the national economy. Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress had no authoritative power to control this trade (Vile, 2005). The new Constitution resolved the relevant problem by empowering Congress to regulate commerce with other countries and among the states.
Moreover, it is critical to note that the Constitution offered a more reasonable approach in terms of legislation. Hence while under the Articles of Confederation, an amendment could not be adopted unless all the states gave their approval, the new Constitution limited the number of agreeing on parts to the three-fourth of all the states. The same approach was employed to regulate the laws’ ratification – instead of requiring the consent of all the states, the new Constitution reduced the number of required approvals to nine. This made the legislative system more flexible and productive.
Another critical difference between the two documents refers to the tax sphere. Thus, according to the Articles of Confederation, the power to collect taxes belonged to the states. As a consequence, the government, deprived of the relevant right, was obliged to request the essential funds from every state – the pattern was very complicated and unreliable. The new Constitution managed to change the situation by empowering Congress to tax and raise revenues. Receiving this right was critical for the US government and had a positive effect on the funding of national services such as army, navy, etc. In other words, the entire system became more rational and organized.
In the meantime, it is essential to admit that there were some strengths that the two documents had in common. Thus, for example, both the Articles of Confederation and the new Constitution proclaimed democratic values and provided no implications for establishing a monarchy. Also, both documents imposed restrictions on the creation of “titles of nobility” and appealed to the states to treat all the American citizens equally. In other words, American law would always stand for democratic values and equality.
Constitution drafting was a long-term and challenging process as it required the states to find compromises on a large scope of issues. The participants had to agree to a series of problems regarding, economics, relations between the states, national government, and foreign affairs.
Historians claim that the question of governmental form was resolved less problematically than all the others (Rakove, 1978). Thus, all the states agreed on the adoption of the republican model that proposed that each state would have its representing people. The problem of voting and electing was much more complex – the participants needed to define the allocation of states’ votes in Congress as well as to frame the election procedure. The alternative solution was offered by Roger Sherman, and went down in history as a “Great Compromise”. According to Sherman’s proposal, state power was determined by the people and their votes in the House, whereas, in the Senate, this power relied on the legislature election so that Senators were supposed to be elected by the respective state legislatures. The proposed approach managed to fit the requirements of both “patriots” and “nationalists” and created a favorable background for further compromises. Specialists note that Sherman’s role is critical for American history – the country could face a crucial political collapse unless the compromise was found (Rakove, 1978).
The debate between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists
From the historic perspective, the debates between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists about the ratification of the Constitution are an excellent example that illustrates the core differences between the two political arms. The debates that arose within the states mainly concerned the interpretation of the new Constitution. In other words, there was no agreement on its character – the Federalists would consider it to be an improvement, the Anti-Federalists would favor a weaker government and thus, would disapprove of the new Constitution. As a result, the process of the constitution’s ratification was long and challenging. The Federalists tried to persuade their opponents by criticizing the Articles of Confederation and providing explicit explanations of the New Constitution in the so-called Federalists Papers.
The document was mainly aimed at the New York public, though it spread rapidly throughout the entire country. The principle idea of the papers was to defend the Constitution and provide the rationale for the most ambiguous points, such as The Bill of Rights. Thus the Federalists tried to persuade the public that the lack of the Bill of Rights was temporary and that the Congress would always be able to propose essential Amendments, in case the current measures turned out to be insufficient (Hamilton, Madison, & Jay, 2007). The Anti-Federalists, in their turn, would fear the excessive power of the national government. Such opposition representatives as Patrick Henry or John Hancock would claim that the lack of the Bill of Rights was inadmissible and even dangerous. In the meantime, history has shown that their concerns were exaggerated and the adopted Constitution served well to maintain the balance between the national and states’ interests (Berkin, 2015).
The new Constitution of 1787 became a significant hallmark of American history. While preserving the democratic implications of the Articles of Confederation, it introduced a series of critical changes to all the spheres of American life: economics, politics, etc. The key value of implementing the relevant document resided in the fact that it reshaped the national government structure, making it more flexible and organized.
Berkin, C. (2015). The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster.
Hamilton, A., Madison, J., & Jay, J. (2007). The Federalist Papers. New York, New York: Filiquarian Publishing.
Hull, M. (2000). Shays’ Rebellion and the Constitution in American History. New York, New York: Enslow Publishers.
Rakove, J.N. (1978). ‘The Great Compromise’ Drafting The American Constitution, 1787. History Today, 37(9), 19-32.
Vile, J.R. (2005). The Constitutional Convention of 1787: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of America’s Founding. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO.